'I'm going to fight with them until the end'

'I'm going to fight with them until the end'

After six innings of work on Sunday, the Stephen Strasburg innings count now sits at 156.1 and the expected shutdown range of 160-180 innings is quickly approaching. Neither Strasburg, Mike Rizzo, or Davey Johnson will say exactly when he will be shutdown, but it has been narrowed to his next two starts.

I think two starts. Unless I let him pitch 10 the next one out, which Im not going to. I think his last start will be on the 12th, Johnson said.

Rizzo wasnt quite as specific.

It depends on the same thing its always depended on. When we feel that hes had enough in and around that area of innings, and we take into account all the things weve talked about taking into account, stressful innings, pitches, and that type of thing, then well make that decision and shut him down.

According to Strasburg, he hasnt been talking with management about the subject as much as one might think. He is keeping his approach day-by-day, trying to block everything out. But with the end of his season apparently near, the Nats ace did acknowledge something will have to happen soon.

Im just focused on the next start. Thats all I can really focus on right now. But were going to have to have a sit down and talk here soon, he said.

When asked about sitting down to talk?

Im going to fight with them until the end. Thats all Ive got to say.

It appears what has maybe been delayed by those in D.C. and in the organization, what has been fixated on in the national media, is now finally about to come to its end. It of course isnt an easy decision, and with the competitive nature between the two, it is natural for Strasburg to have his reservations about the move.

Rizzo is confident, however, that two sides will come to an understanding that whatever happens in the future will fall on his shoulders.

I dont think hes going to fight me on it, I think hes going to be unhappy about it, I know hell be unhappy about it. He is an ultimate competitor, but weve taken that out of his hands, he said.

This is a developmental decision and it ultimately falls on the doorstep of the general manager and weve made it. Weve made it five months ago and were going to stick to it.

Rizzo is aware of the national attention the subject has received, but he is firm in his beliefs and has all the information he needs to back it up.

Stephen Strasburg is one of the most popular players in baseball and it is a good conversational piece. It is a debatable subject, but most of the people who have weighed in on this know about ten percent of the information that we know, that weve made our opinion and based it on.

Rizzo was asked if Jordan Zimmermann, a year ahead of Strasburg in the recovery from Tommy John, presents a good example of the plan working. The Nats general manager expanded that notion to include other young arms such as Ross Detwiler and Lucas Giolito, and believes nothing should change that stance.

Just because were in a different position in the standings, were not going to forego my philosophy of player development and keeping pitchers healthy and weve been consistent with it throughout.

Nobody believes the Nationals are as good a team without Strasburg, he is one of the best pitchers in the league and the staffs true ace. But Rizzo is at peace with their talent moving forward this season, with or without the former number one pick.

I think weve got four of the top pitchers in the National League, I think all of them can go out there and win you a game under duress in a playoff atmosphere. I think that theyre ultra-talented and theyre stuff-guys and I think theyre going to be tough to deal with for any team that we play against.

Taking Strasburgs place in the rotation will be John Lannan, a veteran who held a 3.71 ERA last season through 184.2 innings in 2011. You could certainly have worse backup plans than that.

It was part of our plan at the beginning was to be very deep at starting pitcher. It was one of the reasons why we signed Edwin Jackson when people thought we didnt need him, he said.

It was one of the reasons why people thought we were looking to trade John Lannan when, unless we got blown away by a good deal we knew that John Lannan was going to pitch important innings for us sometime this year and the time is about ready for him to get here.

If the Nationals fail to win the World Series, it could be shutting down Strasburg that people point to as the difference. Rizzo knows that, the Nationals know that. But Johnson has won a World Series before and thinks his team has the depth and character to battle through any type of situation.

Weve faced adversity all year long. We didnt have our cleanup hitter, we didnt have our closer. We lost our starting catcher, we lost Jayson Werth for two months, he said.

Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

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Strasburg, long balls power Nationals past Cardinals

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Stephen Strasburg struck out nine including seven of eight in one stretch and the Washington Nationals got home runs from Michael Taylor and Danny Espinosa in a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Taylor's second leadoff homer of the year ended a 22-inning scoreless drought for the Nationals. Espinosa's first of the season was a two-run shot that capped a four-run fourth against Mike Leake (0-3).

Strasburg (4-0) gave up two runs on eight hits in seven innings with one walk. He has 29 strikeouts in 22 1-3 innings his last three outings. Jonathan Papelbon earned his eighth save in nine chances for Washington, which is 5-0 in Strasburg's starts.

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer off Blake Treinen in the eighth for St. Louis, who are 18-9 against Washington the last five seasons.

Leake, who got a five-year, $80 million free agent deal, gave up five runs in seven innings and has a 5.83 ERA.

Daniel Murphy and Jayson Werth had an RBI apiece in the fourth.

TRAINER'S ROOM

C Wilson Ramos (bereavement list) could return this weekend after leaving following the death of his grandfather. Manager Dusty Baker said the team would be patient, adding "death has no season."

UP NEXT

Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.24) is holding opponents to a .198 average, among the league's best. Joe Ross (2-0, 0.54) was among just five NL starters to not allow a homer, with a minimum of 20 innings.

RELATED: NATS SEE TOUGH ROAD TRIP AS GOOD TEST FOR WHERE THEY'RE AT

Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

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Nationals turn to Strasburg as they start series with Cardinals

Nats (14-7) vs. Cardinals (12-10) at Busch Stadium

The Nationals will look to bounce back after getting swept by the Phillies as they head to St. Louis for a series with the Cardinals.

Stephen Strasburg (3-0, 2.17) will take the mound for Washington looking to continue his impressive start to the 2016 season. Strasburg has never started a season 4-0.

The Cardinals will turn to Mike Leake who has allowed at least four runs in each of his four starts this saeson.

First pitch: 8:15 p.m.
TV: MASN 2
Radio: 106.7 The Fan
Starting pitchers: Nats - Stepehen Strasburg vs. Cardinals - Mike Leake

NATS

CF Michael Taylor
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Bryce Harper
1B Ryan Zimmerman
2B Daniel Murphy
LF Jayson Werth
SS Danny Espinosa
C Jose Lobaton
RHP Stephen Strasburg

CARDINALS

3B Matt Carpenter
RF Stephen Piscotty
LF Matt Holliday
1B Matt Adams
CF Randal Grichuk
2B Jeed Gyorko
SS Aledmys Diaz
C Eric Fryer
RHP Mike Leake

Follow along with GameView here.

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

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USA Today Sports Images

Nats see tough road trip as good test for where they're at

There is a significant contrast in the quality of teams the Nationals have faced thus far this season through 21 games and the caliber of clubs they are about to see on their upcoming 10-game road trip. It's a major scheduling quirk and as of Friday morning, the Nats are standing right on the middle of it.

Behind them is the second-easiest schedule in baseball to this point based on opponents win percentage. And up ahead are three teams that finished among the four best records in baseball last season. The worst team they will play coming up on this road swing based on their 2015 regular season record is the Kansas City Royals. They led the American League with 95 wins and later won the World Series.

The trip begins in St. Louis against a Cardinals team that led baseball with 100 wins last season. And the journey closes with the Chicago Cubs, a 97-win team that reached the NL Championship Series.

It's an unusually difficult road trip, to say the least.

“It’s one of the tougher trips I think I’ve probably ever been on," first baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.

"There are three or four times on the schedule where you say, 'Hey this is going to be a heck of a road trip,'" manager Dusty Baker said. "It's going to be a test."

The Cardinals and Cubs boast the two highest-scoring offenses in baseball right now. The Cards have a +48 run differential and the Cubs - who have the best record in baseball at 16-5 - are +74. 

The Cubs and Royals rank in the top 10 in MLB in team ERA, the Cubs are second only to the Nats in baseball in the category. The Royals have the seventh-best bullpen ERA and everyone knows they can play defense.

All three teams will present challenges and, if you ask some members of the Nats, that could be a good thing.

"This is going to be a test to see -- a barometer to see how good we are right now," Baker said. "We're not full-forces yet, we haven't been and we've done pretty well, because Ben Revere, one of our igniters, is getting ready… but it's going to be exciting."

"You enjoy the challenge," Zimmerman added. "I think you get to see what we’re really made of. Go out and play three really, really good teams and I think the guys in here are excited for it.”

The Nationals are going to learn a lot about themselves over the next 10 days, that's for sure.